Ecotourism, simply put is the management of tourism and conservation of nature, in order to maintain a fine balance between the requirements of tourism and ecology on the one hand and needs of the local communities for jobs, new skills, and income generating employment on the other.
In India, the development of eco-tourism started in the 70’s and still has a long way to go. Being 4th most preferred country for holidays in the world, and possessing such a wide variety of ecological diversity, culture and history; India has the ability to generate a much higher return on investment (in terms of employment generation) as opposed to agriculture or manufacturing by taking advantage of this opportunity.
Tourism is the largest service industry in India, with a contribution of 6.23% to the national GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and 8.78% of the total employment in India. Himachal Pradesh in particular, is tied with Goa, accounting for over 450,000 visits as per a 2010 census. As we know, Kulu, Manali, Sangla Valley and Dharmashala are specifically known for their beauty to nature lovers.
The key players in the ecotourism business are Government, local authorities, developers and operators, visitors and the local community. Each one of them has to be sensitive to the environment and local traditions and follow a set of guidelines for the successful development of ecotourism.
Major Issues with Eco-tourism in India
One of the biggest problems with responsible tourism in India is the impact on the environment. It involves the appropriation of areas belonging to national parks, tribal areas and the wilderness. This leads to the building of mega-resorts, luxury hotels and shopping centers, which leads to local flora and fauna losing their natural habitat. Additionally, such developments compete for natural resources such as land and water.
A Solution for Eco-friendly Development
There is a need to accommodate tourists in a way that is minimally intrusive or destructive to the environment and sustains & supports the native cultures in the locations it is operating in.
One way to do this is to create infrastructure, which has a minimal footprint, and can be run completely off-grid such that it has a minimal impact on the local ecology. A popular way of creating such infrastructure is to recycle old shipping containers, which are used to transport goods across the world.
2.5 million shipping containers go through India’s ports every year. Typically after a service period of 6-8 years, they’re retired from maritime activity and are used as dry-freight for another few years before being discarded or scrapped. This produces a huge amount of waste and emissions in India, and is also a global problem deeply integrated into the world’s trade economy. Scrapping a shipping container for metal uses 8000 kWh of energy, while repurposing it into infrastructure only uses about 400 kWh.
Container infrastructure is on the rise in India, with containers being majorly used in the construction industry as site offices and toilets. However, these structures can be readily used to develop resorts, cabins and homes which are eco-friendly and they can be equipped with dry-toilets and solar power to make them completely off-grid.
Each container facility can help upcycle 2.3 tons of steel, while the materials used help prevent the massive CO2 emissions associated with reinforced cement concrete construction. Additionally, input materials such as tetra-pack boards can recycle more than 120 KG of waste tetra-packs, or avoid the use of MDF boards/ Gypsum Boards by using OSB Boards sourced from renewable forests.
Since these structures are manufactured off-site, and then moved to the final site for installation, they have a minimal ecological footprint. These buildings are also a great option as:
- They are less expensive than traditional construction while being eco-friendly
- They can be moved as per convenience, in case rooms need to be added or removed according to demand
- Since they are movable, they can be simply placed on rented land and operated as an off-the-grid facility anywhere in the country
- They can be built very quickly, avoiding the costs and time associated with traditional construction, especially in remote areas.
This can help combat a lot of the problems associated with infrastructure development for tourism.
Additionally, inclusive schemes from the government to help finance such infrastructure can work towards developing local entrepreneurship. Such structures can be used on rented land and set up small businesses such as internet cafés and salons or even to build schools, anganwadis or restaurants. Since they are movable, it decreases the possibility of land appropriation, while ensuring that an unused structure can be removed and disposed of easily.
Aadhan Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. is an organization based in Delhi, trying to create impact in the recycled infrastructure space by recycling such containers into eco-friendly, mobile infrastructure.
They are the only company in India focusing on providing a turnkey solution, which includes design, fabrication, delivery and installation. They are also the only company treating these containers to make them safe for human habitation, and ensuring that our clients have the option of making their structures eco-friendly, sustainable and completely off-grid.